POLICE presented an Egyptian accused of being a commander of the Islamic State and his Filipina partner Monday after they were arrested in an apartment in Ermita, Manila on Friday.
At a press conference, Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa identified the alleged ISIS leader as Fehmi Lassqued, an Egyptian national, and his girl friend as Anabel Moncera Salipada.
Dela Rosa said Lassqued was arrested on the strength of a search warrant after intelligence reports from the PNP’s foreign counterparts alerted them to an international terrorist hiding in Manila.
An ISIS flag, makeshift bombs, a .45-caliber pistol and ammunition were taken from Lassqued during the raid, he said.
“At present, his status in the Philippines is a recruiter, but he was formerly a negotiator between ISIS and local officials in Syria and Turkey… so he is a commander of ISIS,” Dela Rosa said.
Records showed that Lassqued entered the country on July 26, 2016 through Iran using a fake passport.
Over the next year, he traveled several times to Malaysia and Turkey.
“He was traveling in and out of Manila,” Dela Rosa said, adding that the police and their foreign intelligence counterparts have yet to determine Lassqued’s mission in the countries he frequented.
Salapida told investigators she only met Lassqued in Manila, and said the suspect had not traveled to Mindanao.
The PNP has asked the Justice Department to prosecute Lassqued and Salipada for illegal possession of explosive devices and firearms.
Lassqued and Salipada were brought to the DoJ for inquest proceedings following their arrest in Ermita, Manila on Friday, Feb.16, by police and military agents.
The charge sheet ,signed by Supt. Carlito Narag Jr., sought the indictment of the suspects for violations of laws on the illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Assisted by lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office, Lassqued and Salipada waived their right to immediate release from detention and opted to remain in detention to answer the charges in a preliminary investigation.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong then set the hearing for Wednesday next week, Feb.28, for submission of counter affidavit of the respondents.
In an interview, Lassqued denied being an ISIS commander and claimed that authorities also forced him to admit that the explosive devices were also his.
“They forced me to say I am from ISIS and they put for me many weapons, and they told me to say this is mine and forced me to do that,” he said.
The suspected terrorist said he only went to the Philippines “to escape our country” even as he admitted possessing a fake Tunisian passport. Asked where he is from, Lassqued could not give a definitive reply.
“UAE [United Arab Emirates], Tunisia, Egypt, many countries I am from… I am half Tunisian, I am half Libyan, but I was born in UAE,” he said.